* As published in November 2021
Like many generations, but especially those that grew up in the 1950s, The Beatles was synonymous with the divinity of music. This included the young people who “invented” punk, a future series theme that will hit screens in 2022. Among this group were, of course, Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees.
In 1983, the band led by Siouxsie Sioux, was touring Europe. Robert Smith, from The Cure, joined the band replacing guitarist John McGeogh, who left to treat his alcoholism. Having covered Helter Skelter on the 1978 album The Scream, the group launched the idea of revisiting their favorite band, with a new cover of the same White Album. They ran into a problem, Smith was not as passionate about the Fantastic Four as the rest of the world and was unaware of most of their songs. He only knew one song on the album, and that was Dear Prudence. Thus, a classic was born.
“Dear Prudence”: the origin was an homage to Prudence Farrow
Dear Prudence was written by John Lennon during the Beatles’ “Indian” period when they were following guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. During isolation for meditation, the band met sisters Mia and Prudence Farrow, daughters of director John Farrow.
Mia was already a famous actress and Prudence, who struggled with drug addiction and depression, took the teachings more seriously than anyone, spending consecutive days isolated, without eating or interacting with people. To the point that – even encouraged – her commitment came to be seen as harmful to herself. John and George Harrison were the closest and tried to help her get back to socializing. The song, simple and innocent, invites Prudence to reconnect with the world around her.
The ballad was included on the famous White Album, and Paul McCartney played the drums, as Ringo Starr left the group after a fight with Paul. Dear Prudence, by all accounts, was one of Lennon’s own favorite compositions, but with the Beatles, it wasn’t as successful. It took 15 years to become a hit around the world.
Siouxsie’s video in Venice, success in the United States
Siouxsie recalled, years later, that it was Sid Vicious that inspired her to make Beatles covers to begin with. In 1976, she and friends (which included the Sex Pistols) hosted the 100 Club Punk Festival event, where they “updated” religious songs in punk guise and Sid suggested they should work with Beatles songs. “The spirit of that idea stayed with me. I grew up listening to the White Album, I loved it for being experimental, and what if we messed up? Even better,” she said.
For Robert Smith the biggest challenge was the final version, as he considered the original “unfinished”. Siouxsie and the Banshees recorded the single while on tour, in a studio in the Netherlands. When they arrived in England they were surprised by the song topping the charts. They appeared on the famous Top of the Pops and – in the days of MTV – they recorded a video in Venice, with the band crawling through the canals and alleys of the Italian city. Of course, being punks, they ignored the order to only record with permission from the city hall and when bassist Steve Severin was stopped by police and escorted out of the recording, the image stayed on the video.
And the real Prudence?
Prudence Farrow, producer, writer, and journalist, went on to sign with her married name, Prudence Bruns, and is still one of the biggest references on transcendental meditation and religious themes. He never strayed from his studies, even with the guru’s alleged sexual harassment of his sister, Mia.
In the 1980s, he quickly passed through the gossip columns for suggestions that he had had a romance for more than three years with the assassin Robert Durst, just when he was still married to Kathie McCormack, a few months before her disappearance. In 2003, Prudence registered with the police that Durst was threatening her because she would have ended their affair about three days before Kathie’s disappearance. Durst was sentenced to prison for the murder of Susan Berman, who would have presumably helped him eliminate evidence of Kathie’s probable death. Prudence now lives in New York with her husband, three children, and four grandchildren.
Here are the Siouxsie and Beatles versions of the song.